A Checked Bag Antenna

Blog Type: Gear review

Gear: Ultra Lightweight HexBeam Antenna

Manufacturer: G3TXQ UK

Website: https://www.g3txq-hexbeam.com

Executive summary;

  • Very portable for a full size 2 element beam
  • Resonant on all bands
  • Works out of box with no cutting, trimming or fiddling
  • Works well with the SpiderBeam 10m aluminum push up mast
  • More hands help in building but can easily be done solo
  • Need something to hold antenna vertical while building it
  • About 3 db gain

Recommend: Yes

If you’ve read any of my blogs you might have picked up that for better or worse most of my radio operating is away from home and quite often atop a mountain. While mountains are wonderful places, a competitive, loud and effective station is generally hard to bring in my back pack. With that I happened quite serendipitously into the idea and world of swapping my backpack for the hold of a plane and the mountain for an exotic destination such as a Caribbean island. However, planes are great but as most know not super generous with seat size nor baggage allowance. With this in mind small and light become keywords in my journey forward.

A radio station is made up of many parts, all contributing to it’s overall success. Simplistically, a failure of any one could spell disaster suggesting all components are created equal but for many the advice is simple; get the best antenna you can, as high up as you can! In a world of equals, antennas are first amongst equals.

Antennas come in various shapes, sizes and more importantly designs. For transmit antennas (because receive can be treated as a separate class) it’s typically about efficiency and directivity. Both of these usually come at a price; size, as in big, large, heavy and potentially unwieldily.

After searching, reading and talking to people, I settled on a style that is more wire than metal tubes and relatively straightforward to assemble/dissemble. Once settled on a wire type the field narrowed to two contenders; the UK manufactured G3TXQ and the German manufactured SpiderBeam (German). While not identical both have great reputations but differ in size (and hence gain/directivity) and in the end I went local and opted for the one that is smaller and Welsh.

Baggage over 62″ is excessive

I have to admit that despite having travelled over two million miles as a baggage minimalist, I never realized that 62″ linear inches was significant in the baggage world. Adding width, height and length of a bag and yielding a number greater than 62″ you are almost certainly handing over hundreds of dollars in excessive baggage fee for each journey.

The HexBeam elements are all around 39″ long leaving a very manageable 23″ for width and height.

Ingenous design

Weighing in at around 13 lbs and ultimately having a wing span around 20 ft, the design is a marvel of simple assembly through the use of fiber glass poles, wire and high strength string/cord.

About 39″ in length leaving a comfortable 23″ for width and height to not get nailed with excessive baggage fees
Feed system with coax at back and two parallel bars that bring all wires back to 50 ohm resonate (or thereabouts)

Borrowing lush lawns and eventually desert landscape

Having very little and of my own, I’m always “persuading” friends to either loan me space or better still space plus a set of hands. With the final result up at 30 ft and occupying space left and right, two or even three people seem the minimum to safely deploy. It seemed unlikely in my mind that I would ever be doing it alone but that was until early 2020 and the relentless onset of Covid changed our whole perspective of socializing and close proximity.

Soggy grass and pub food

If you follow the River Tweed east along the Scottish Border you aren’t far from a gem of the Lowlands and my destination is Jedburgh to borrow Pete’s (MM0INE) hands and back garden. We have happily done this exercise before with verticals and understandably today is about getting the HexBeam assembled and then atop the mast.

Assembly is easy, intuitive and straighforward

The antenna comes with a very useable set of instructions. It’s interesting to watch the antenna take shape. Circling it you slot arms into other arms, circle again I connect cord from arms ends to the top of the central part, circle again adding more arms, attaching more cords until you eventually thread up to 6 pre cut wires covering 6, 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20m. The biggest takeaway was the need for something to hold the antenna vertical while I circled and add to it. First attempt this was Pete’s job but subsequently I have used different supports and for my October 2020 CQP outing had settled on a step ladder.

Pete acting as my first “support”. Partially assembled antenna (arms and cord)
Replacing Pete with a tripod to aid assembly but this is not the final approach I adopt
Fully assembled HexBeam. Really very light but need to pay attention to stop it tipping over
From a small box of parts comes quite the structure but not fully guyed yet.

Second attempt included Keith GM4JKZ and this time coax and a radio. My first contact was fittingly over the Atlantic that body of water that connects my birth country to adopted country. Matt, K0BBC had access to a stunning 4 over 4 over 4 20m stack of Yagis. If he count hear me I suspect no one could but fortunately we both sounded like neighbors chatting over a hedge which you can hear below.

Great SWR and happy faces

Indispensable tool that reads a magic 1.15…very good, that’s what we want!!
We may not be versed in selfies but we are happy with our progress!!
Recorded at a Maine, USA station of the G3TXQ HexBeam operating at 400w from Jedburgh, Scotland

Conclusion

The G3TXQ HexBeam is an excellent contest, Field Day or Suitcase DXPedition choice. Robust, great performance, simple to deploy and best of all the wires approach yields a resonant antenna (no ATU needed) for all 6 bands (20/17/15/12/10/6) that has no traps or other paraphernalia that drag down its efficiency.

While I haven’t mentioned it’s support, I used a SpiderBeam 10m aluminum push up mast that I will write about in a separate post but its a winner and easily allows a rotator to be used that will turn the HexBeam through 360 degrees. As a UK manufactured antenna and I commiserate with my M, MM, MW brethren on the 400w national limit, I’ve used it with 700w in the US with no issue and suspect it would easily handle 1500w.

Hats off to Anthony David MWØJZE the current owner, refiner and manufacture of the HexBeam. No regrets buying it and look forward to using it more in 2021 and beyond. Read my upcoming California QSO Party participation as W6E using the HexBeam to turn in a very respectable score with Scott N6MI.

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